Understanding where we will get our oil from, the costs and benefits associated with these new locations, and the overall feasibility of these new production methods are all essential factors that should be examined. In order to fully understand what possibilities the future holds for meeting our growing energy needs, we need to first grasp the massive undertakings that aren’t being showcased by global news outlets today.
On the whole, these new locations are rather isolated, come with increasing financial burdens, and pose larger environmental risks than any previous oil source has before. For those reasons it’s imperative that everyone, even those among us that are keen on utilizing alternative fuel sources, have a grasp on what Big Oil is pursuing.
While Antarctica tends to receive most of the attention when it comes to environmental news, the Arctic circle also has a number of pressing issues, especially with regard to oil exploration. To put it simply, the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere on the planet. Given how quickly ice is melting up north, many fragile ecosystems are “feeling the heat.” But this same melt has opened up new possibilities in the areas once covered by those same massive sheets of ice. Analysts believe that the clearing of sea ice will help to open up new shipping routes, a major factor in the distribution of oil. On a similar note, the retreating ice is also granting oil companies access to previously unreachable potential oil sources.
So, what does drilling in the Arctic actually entail? To begin, researchers must determine how much oil can be extracted, how the climate will affect their drilling stations, as well as how to get the newly found crude to oil refineries across the globe. Some see the ice melting as an unexpected benefit of climate change, allowing ships to maneuver throughout the once treacherous ice fields much easier than in previous years. These new routes not only make travel safer, but it also cuts the amount of time needed to get shipments from location to location. As far as production potential of the Arctic, an estimated 90 billion barrels could be added to the world reserves at more than $100 per barrel (current prices are around $85).
With a $15 increase per barrel, it’s clear that this source comes at a premium. The risks seem to be more drastic in comparison to the benefits. We’ve seen what can happen when oil exploration goes bad (see: Deepwater Horizon oil spill), but a spill in the Arctic could prove to be truly catastrophic. The extreme climate, including intense storms, choppy waters, and fluctuating temperatures, would likely be more difficult to clean up than any previous spill. The location also presents a problem, given the fact that it’s difficult to reach many of the areas that would be affected by a spill. Ecosystem restoration efforts would be equally difficult, as getting supplies to the various locations would be costly and stressful.
The question I still have is: what other options are there? Do the supposed 90 billion barrels of oil outweigh the exponential risks if something goes wrong? I’d like to say no, but there’s certainly reason to believe that 90 billion barrels of oil will help to tide the world over until the next source is found. With that said, getting the word out about drilling in the Arctic, along with other sources that will be discussed later, can only help spark discussions on reducing emissions and venturing away from non-renewables to help power our world. What are your thoughts?
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.